A Response to BBC Panorama – A Prescription For Murder


The reporting of anti depressants was shameful in this programme. This show was only about scaremongering and hysteria surrounding medication and mental illness. It’s harmful towards people with mental health problems. The programme will increase the stigma of mental illness and taking medications, which is already a problem for so many sufferers. The damage caused could be irreparable to audiences views on anti depressants and their views of mental health sufferers.

I think it’s important to acknowledge people with mental illness are far more likely to be a harm to themselves than to anyone else. According to Time to Change, “90 per cent of people who die through suicide in the UK are experiencing mental distress.” and statistics show that “Only 1 per cent of victims believed that the violent incident happened because the offender had a mental illness.” That means 99 per cent of violent crimes were committed by people who were not suffering from a mental illness. People with mental health problems are also far more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators. The Royal College of Psychiatrists report that people with a severe mental health problem are five times more likely to be the victims of assault, with women being particularly vulnerable. Substance misuse is a far bigger problem and has much more of a tangible link to violent crime than mental illness.

The title in itself is damaging, “A Prescription for Murder” and seems to be there to increase ratings. I’m not exaggerating when I say this programme is dangerous that could lead to people not seeking help who are in desperate need. Imagine you’re a young person or someone that has never taken anti depressants. After seeing this programme would you be put off taking SSRI’s? I think so. Even if you are extremely unwell this show could deter someone from seeking help, with consequences that could be serious to that individual. Its’ title is misleading in its’ insinuation that the prescription will cause people to commit murder, when they are focusing on a tiny proportion of the global population.

I am also offended by the online twitter team. The tweets completely missed the point as to why so many people were angry. Tweeting to “see your doctor if you’re concerned about side effects” is an example of this. People are upset about this show because it is stigmatising and harmful, not because of a lack of information of what to do if you’re concerned about medication you’re taking. There was also a link to a BBC article about support for mental health. The image of someone clutching their head used in the article is stigmatising. Both Mind and Time for Change have guidelines for reporting on mental health, and images that should be used. Here is a link to Time for Change’s Responsible Reporting section. The programme and the image used in the article show that these guidelines were blatantly ignored in favour of ratings.

As someone with Bipolar, I take a mixture of mood stabilisers, anti psychotics and anti depressants. I have written about how Psychiatric Drugs Saved My Life It’s true that if I was taking anti depressants they would alter my mood and I have become manic because of them. What’s also true is at these times I was only ever a danger to myself. I was misdiagnosed with depression and with the proper treatment I am now much more stable. Although the connection between SSRI’s and violence is played up, what is downplayed is the connection between misdiagnosis and how anti depressants alone can be harmful for people with severe mental illnesses such as Bipolar. This isn’t a new revelation.

What also upsets me is the rhetoric that medication for physical health is seen as a positive and very much needed. However, as soon as the media start talking about mental health medication it’s only seen as negative, and dangerous at that. This is more harmful to the majority of people with mental health problems than any medication could ever be.

The BBC has a duty to be impartial and fair. They have a duty to report respectfully and without bias. I don’t believe this has happened with this programme. The media needs to be held accountable for how they portray people with mental illness and it’s our duty to make sure they are. If you wish to make a complaint about this programme the link is here

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